Basic Facts About Marijuana
According to 2012 figures compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only alcohol and nicotine are used more often than marijuana, also known as cannabis. Partly in response to changing public opinion and state-level legal changes, intake of the drug has increased every year since 2007. Marijuana derives its impact from substances called cannabinoids, which change normal brain function and produce pleasure and other mind-altering effects. The primary cannabinoid in the drug (and other forms of cannabis) is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that the THC level of the average batch of marijuana has risen by roughly 250 percent over the past 30 years. This jump in potency may underlie both increased risks for harmful short-term side effects in marijuana users and increased risks for marijuana addiction. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.
The presence of THC boosts the brain’s levels of a pleasure-producing chemical called dopamine. In part, it is this dopamine boost that explains marijuana users’ desire to keep taking more of the drug. The brain reacts to recurring changes in its dopamine levels by altering its production of that chemical and adapting to the presence of THC. This adaptation can turn into a physical dependence on marijuana. Dependence transitions into marijuana addiction when users of the drug develop problems such as strong urges to consume more marijuana (or any other cannabis product), a diminished ability to set limits on marijuana consumption, continued marijuana use even after experiencing negative consequences and a need to consume higher amounts of the drug in order to get “high.” The addiction rate for all marijuana users in the U.S. is roughly 9 percent; daily users have addiction rates as high as 50 percent.
Diagnosing Marijuana Addiction
As per guidelines established in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association, doctors may simultaneously diagnose symptoms of abuse and addiction under the heading of cannabis use disorder. A minimally affected individual with this disorder has two or three abuse- or addiction-related symptoms. A moderately affected individual has four or five symptoms of marijuana/cannabis abuse or addiction, while a severely affected individual has six or more symptoms. The maximum number of potential cannabis use disorder symptoms is 11.